As olive oil mingles with white wine and the sweet juices of clams in this classic pasta dish, it creates a fragrant sauce that coats the pasta. Be sure to undercook the pasta slightly so it can finish cooking in the sauce. We developed this recipe to accompany Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s piece “The Essence of Olives” (May 2010).
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 lb. pasta, preferably linguine
- 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 oz. pancetta, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 Fresno or Holland chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 3⁄4 lb. littleneck clams (about 30), scrubbed clean
- 1⁄3 cup dry white wine
- 3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1⁄2 cup pasta water, and set aside. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a paper towel; set aside.
- Return skillet to medium heat and add garlic and half the chiles; cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add clams and wine, increase heat to high, and cook, covered, swirling pan occasionally, until clams open and release their juices, 5-10 minutes. Using tongs, transfer clams to a plate; set aside. Bring sauce to a boil over high heat, return pancetta to pan, and add reserved pasta and 1⁄4 cup cooking liquid. Cook, tossing pasta occasionally, until sauce clings to pasta, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in some more of the pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Add 2 tbsp. parsley, season with salt, and toss to combine. Transfer pasta to a serving bowl, arrange clams over pasta, and pour any clam juices from the plate over pasta. Drizzle pasta with more olive oil and garnish with remaining chiles and parsley.
Pairing Note Crisp Bisson Vermentino 2006 ($30) pairs beautifully with this dish’s briny, spicy notes.